Increasing the speed of roll-out of fibre broadband across member states is a vital component to drive a greener, more competitive economy as Europe gears up for a post pandemic recovery, according to Michel Van Bellinghen, Chairman 2021 of BEREC (Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications).
Delivering a keynote speech during the online ‘A Green and Digital Europe with Full-fibre: Opportunities, Challenges and Best Practices’ conference, Van Bellinghen suggested that the pandemic and the NextGenerationEU Fund play an impressive role in promoting a boom in supply and demand for digital services.
The event took place against the background of the EU’s recently-published Connectivity Toolbox, which sets out recommendations of best practices to help facilitate the most efficient roll out of very high-capacity networks, including full-fibre broadband. “Fast roll-out of fibre networks is a prerequisite for the long-term competitiveness and sustainability of the EU,” said Van Bellinghen.
According to new data, for the first time over 50 per cent of European Countries have over 50 per cent of homes with full fibre, advised Vincent Garnier, Director General, FTTH Council Europe, quoting figures soon to be released from his organisation’s 2021 Market Panorama study. “As fibre roll-out accelerates, it becomes critical to focus on fibre adoption and to plan for copper switch off,” he asserted.
“With the Digital Decade, the EU wants to ensure that its citizens and businesses have access to a choice of state-of-the-art technologies that will make their life better, safer, and even greener – provided they also have the skills to use them,” advised Rita Wezenbeek, Director – Connectivity of DG CONNECT, European Commission. “In the post pandemic world, this is how we will shape together a resilient and digitally-sovereign Europe.”
“Accelerating the transition to full fibre will require €300 billion investment by the end of the decade,” suggested Lise Fuhr, Director General of ETNO, the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association. “However it can bring huge benefits across Europe; 2.4 million new jobs, annual economic benefits of €113 billion, and 15 per cent carbon emission cuts.”
“Achieving a full 5G and full fibre scenario is key to meet Europe’s green and digital targets,” she stated, stressing that investment conditions must dramatically improve in order to meet these investment targets. According to Fuhr, ETNO member companies have made huge advances in using renewable energy. She welcomed the “important positive steps” taken by the new EU Commission adding that “the green transition should be a positive incentive to speed up the shift to full-fibre,” warning that “if we transform it into yet another regulatory stick, it may lead to slowing roll-out rather than speeding it up”.
“Energy consumption and ICT equipment currently produce 2 to 2.5 per cent of annual greenhouse gases,” reported Harald Gruber, Head of Digital Infrastructure Division, European Investment Bank. He said that Gigabit Society Targets for VHC [Very High Capacity] broadband networks are well justified and necessary for Europe, but are far beyond what market forces can deliver. He added that the EIB is focusing on areas of higher “market failures” that are hindering digital technologies, such as universal access to VHC infrastructure, adoption barriers due to lack of skills, cybersecurity and legacy infrastructures. “Full fibre broadband access networks are a key component to tackle climate change and hence fully endorsed for financing by the EIB,” he confirmed.
Data from Huawei’s lab presented at the conference shows that a shift of just ten thousand users from copper lines to fibre results in power saving of five hundred and fifty thousand kilowatt-hours per year, equivalent to planting six thousand trees.
Richard (Yuzhi) Jin, President, Optical Business Product Line of Huawei, suggested that “optical fibre is the greenest broadband technology, and can significantly support Europe’s Green Deal”. He also welcomed EU’s adoption of Guidelines on VHCNs, harmonising the criteria a network has to fulfil to be considered a Very High Capacity Network, therefore providing a basis for improving the overall connectivity status across EU, and the 2030 Digital Compass, which prioritises infrastructure.